How to Become a Mortician and Other Jobs in the Funeral Industry

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There are a lot of reasons for thinking about becoming a funeral director, the funeral industry’s preferred term for mortician.

For one, the unemployment rate is low. For another, there’s always a need.

And, it is one of the careers that does not require a bachelor’s degree that still pays well. Funeral directors make an average of $55,000 a year. That’s the average and some directors with more experience bring in more than $70,000. As far as school, most states require an associate’s degree, an apprenticeship/internship, and passing a licensing exam.

If working with bereaved families and preparing bodies for burial or cremation seem like something you would be good at, consider this well-paying career path. The funeral industry is estimated to be worth $16 billion in the United States in 2021.

Read on to find out how to become a mortician.

The Difference Between a Mortician and Funeral Director

First, let’s clarify some terms. What are the differences between mortician, funeral director, embalmer and undertaker? They have similar roles but slightly different duties.

In 1895, an American publication called The Embalmer’s Monthly put out a call for a new term for undertakers. The winner was mortician, a made-up word and thank goodness for Morticia Addams, right? Now, the industry uses funeral director for the person arranging the funeral service.

Most funeral directors are licensed morticians and embalmers. They have studied mortuary science and prepare bodies, but they also arrange the other aspects of funeral services. Funeral directors help the bereaved plan the memorial service (and might conduct it if there is no clergy) and arrange for cremation and burial. Funeral directors deal directly with the clients.

An embalmer can work for a funeral home, but also elsewhere — medical schools, hospitals, and morgues. They mainly prepare bodies, and don’t work with clients. The term undertaker is the British term for funeral director and is seldom used in the U.S. except when referring to the popular professional wrestler, The Undertaker.

What Does a Funeral Director Do?

Funeral directors deal with both the living and the dead. Funeral directors arrange for moving the body to the funeral home. They file the paperwork for death certificates, obituaries, and other legal matters.

Preparing a body for the funeral service may or may not include embalming (cremation doesn’t require embalming), but it needs to be dressed, cosseted (put in the best and most natural appearance), and casketed (placed in the coffin).

Funeral services are difficult times for people. The funeral director needs to have compassion for people navigating their pain and sorrow. While an interest in science is necessary, an important quality for someone who wants to become a mortician or funeral director is empathy.

The funeral director guides the grieving through the decisions that have to be made for the funeral service. This not only includes choosing the coffin, but placing the obituary, arranging the wake and service and creating a program for it, shipping remains, and more.

The Changing Funeral Business

Most funeral homes are independently owned. While often smaller businesses don’t have the deeper pockets of corporations, their size allows them to be more nimble in evolving their business. Funeral services have transformed from somber and sorrowful times to celebrations of life with some funeral homes even providing spaces for outdoor gathering complete with grills.

In recent years, more women are graduating in mortuary science. Some people might become funeral service workers as a second career instead of inheriting the business, which has been a traditional entry into the industry. The National Funeral Directors Association encourages its members to seek out, hire, and train more women and non-binary people.

You can find mortuary science stars on social media, including the popular YouTube channel, Ask a Mortician. There are funeral directors’ TikTok videos, and mortician AMAs (ask me anything) on Reddit.

Get Started in the Funeral Business

Most states require a two-year associate’s degree in mortuary science or related areas, an apprenticeship or internship, and passing the national or state’s license exam. Ohio and Minnesota are the only two states that require a bachelor’s degree to be a funeral home director. Colorado does not have any education requirements, but licenses funeral homes instead. Kentucky doesn’t license funeral directors but does license embalmers.

The National Funeral Directors Association is your go-to source for state-by-state details of working in the funeral industry.

If you were also thinking about joining the military, the Navy is the only service branch with its own morticians. For that you need a high school diploma or GED, and then you would get training through the Navy as a hospital corpsman-mortician.


You usually have to be at least 21 years old to take the exams, though you can start an internship or apprenticeship before that age. There may also be a criminal background check. Having a criminal record doesn’t mean you can’t become a mortician. You also have to submit proof of U.S. citizenship or permanent residency.

You can also study for and take the national funeral service education board exam. The pathways to these two types of exams can be different. It is important to note that not all mortuary science programs are accredited by the American Board of Funeral Service Education (ABFSE).

You can only take the National Board Exam if you have a degree from an accredited program. Some states allow you to take the state exam even if your program is not accredited. The exams are the same. It is just more difficult to practice in a different state if you haven’t attended an accredited program.

State Licenses

Most states have information about how to become a mortician through their occupational license, public health, or funeral board sections on their website. It is important that you clarify whether the mortuary science programs are accredited for just the state license exam, or for both state and national exams. Some schools also offer Funeral Arts Certificates, which can be used for other jobs in the funeral service industry.

National License

The American Board of Funeral Service Education is the national academic accreditation agency for college and university programs in Funeral Service and Mortuary Science Education. Most states have easier reciprocity requirements to transfer your practice if you have taken the national board exam. If you have taken the state exam only, you may have to meet all of the requirements again if you move to another state.

Classwork for the License

Coursework can be broken down into roughly three categories: art, business, and science. Art? That is for the restorative arts, or visually preparing the body for a funeral service, which includes hair and makeup. There are courses which cover death traditions from many cultures and the history of funerals.

Science classes may cover embalming theory and labs, anatomy, physiology, public health, and pathology. There are chemistry and biology courses, and also usually psychology courses on grief and bereavement training.

Business classes will cover funeral home administration, accounting, requirements for a funeral service license, and some business law. There are usually classes covering legal and ethical issues that a certified funeral service practitioner will face.

Cost of Getting a License

The cost of getting a two-year mortuary science degree varies by state but your best bet will be an in-state community college. Then there will be costs associated with taking exams and getting a license.


There is a huge difference in how much you can pay for a mortuary science associate’s degree. In-state public schools may cost between $5,000-$8,500. Private, out of state tuition might be almost $20,000. There are the normal student loans and grants available, but there are also specific grants for students studying mortuary science (even as a second career). It seems like a great investment, since unemployment for funeral directors is extremely low.


The National Board Exam has two sections, arts and sciences. Each one costs $285. There are practice exams that you can take, which are free. In Florida, the state funeral service examining boards charge $132 for exams. Maine charges $75 plus $21 for a criminal background check. Texas charges $89. Some states have two separate exams — one for funeral services and the other for embalming.


This is another area with variation. Using the same three states as above, Florida’s license for a funeral director costs $430 with all the fees. Maine’s is $230, and Texas costs $175 plus $93 for the application. Apparently not everything is bigger in Texas! Licenses need to be renewed periodically, which also requires continuing education credits.

Funeral Director as Entrepreneur

The funeral industry has been changing rapidly over the last few years. Cremations have increased and burials decreased. Funeral homes make less money on cremations, and have responded to this shift by finding new sources of income and new ways to help people.

Green Funerals

There are more environmentally conscious choices that funeral homes can offer, including rental coffins for services (and a plain one after), biodegradable coffins, and natural burials. Green funeral services include sourcing flowers locally, using funeral invitations and programs made of recycled paper embedded with seeds, and biodegradable water urns, which sink and dissipate for at sea services..

Pet Funerals

An estimated 67% of households in the U.S. own pets, and many of them are using funeral home services for their animals. That includes memorials, services, and burials. Despite pet cremation being infinitely (well, 90 vs.10%) more popular than burial, there are over 200 pet cemeteries in the U.S., with Florida having the most.

Other Jobs in the Funeral Industry

Besides being an intern or apprentice, you can work in the funeral industry in many other ways. Florida lists 16 separate individual and business licenses for funeral home-related activities.

Here are the common jobs in the funeral or mortician industry though keep in mind in a smaller business, the funeral director may do some of them:

  • Administrative assistants handle office work.
  • Burial rights brokers arrange for third parties to sell or transfer burial rights.
  • Cemeterians maintain cemetery grounds (think groundskeeper).
  • Ceremonialists conduct the funeral service.
  • Crematory operators/technicians assist in cremation remains.
  • Direct disposers handle cremation when there is no service or embalming.
  • Embalmers prepare the body after death.
  • Funeral arrangers work with clients to set up the funeral.
  • Funeral home manager is the best paying job in the field, the median salary for this position is more than $74,000. The manager oversees all funeral home operations.
  • Funeral service managers are similar to funeral arrangers.
  • Funeral supply sales personnel work for the funeral home-sourcing supplies.
  • Monument agents sell tombstones and other markers for the cemetery.
  • Mortuary transport drivers prepare and transport human remains.
  • Pathology technicians work in hospitals, morgues, or universities with cadavers.
  • Pre-need sales agents help clients plan their services and burials before they die.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) About Funeral Business Jobs

We’ve rounded up the answers to the most common questions about working in the funeral industry.

What Jobs Can You Do at a Funeral Home?

negotiate supplies, transport bodies, conduct funeral services, and work with clients to place obituaries and arrange the service. They also have sales people working on pre-need arrangements. Some funeral homes feature pet burials and have special jobs related to that.

How Much Do You Make Working at a Funeral Home?

Funeral directors average $55,000 annually. Managing a funeral home pays a median salary of $74,000. Mortuary transport drivers average over $35,000. It is a field with very low unemployment.

How Do I Get a Job in the Funeral Industry?

Most states require two years of school, a (paid) internship, and passing the appropriate license exams to become a funeral director. Other jobs may require less.The mortuary transport driver has to be able to lift 100 pounds or more and have a clean driving record.

What is a Funeral Home Job Called?

There are many. There are funeral directors, embalmers, mortuary transport drivers, and funeral service arrangers. There are also typical office jobs, such as administrative assistant and bookkeepers. There are also related jobs at crematoriums, hospitals, and mortuaries.

The Penny Hoarder contributor JoEllen Schilke writes on lifestyle and culture topics. She is the former owner of a coffee shop in St.Petersburg, Florida, and has hosted an arts show on WMNF community radio for nearly 30 years.




12 Best Monthly Dividend Stocks and Funds to Buy for 2022

For all the changes we’ve experienced in recent years, some things remain regrettably the same. We all have bills to pay, and those bills generally come monthly. Whether it’s your mortgage, your car payment or even your regular phone and utility bills, you’re generally expected to pay every month.

While we’re in our working years, that’s not necessarily a problem, as paychecks generally come every two weeks. And even for those in retirement, Social Security and (if you’re lucky enough to have one) pension payments also come on a regular monthly schedule. But unfortunately, it doesn’t work that way in our investment portfolios. 

That’s where monthly dividend stocks come into play.

Dividend-paying stocks generally pay quarterly, and most bonds pay semiannually, or twice per year. This has a way of making portfolio income lumpy, as dividend and interest payments often come in clusters.

Well, monthly dividend stocks can help smooth out that income stream and better align your inflows with your outflows.

“We’d never recommend buying a stock purely because it has a monthly dividend,” says Rachel Klinger, president of McCann Wealth Strategies, an investment adviser based in State College, Pennsylvania. “But monthly dividend stocks can be a nice addition to a portfolio and can add a little regularity to an investor’s income stream.”

Today, we’re going to look at 12 of the best monthly dividend stocks and funds to buy as we get ready to start 2022. You’ll see some similarities across the selections as monthly dividend stocks tend to be concentrated in a small handful of sectors such as real estate investment trusts (REITs), closed-end funds (CEFs) and business development companies (BDCs). These sectors tend to be more income-focused than growth-focused and sport yields that are vastly higher than the market average.

But in a market where the yield on the S&P 500 is currently 1.25%, that’s certainly welcome. 

The list isn’t particularly diversified, so it doesn’t make a complete portfolio. In other words, you don’t want to overload your portfolio with monthly dividend stocks. But they do allow exposure to a handful of niche sectors that add some income stability, so take a look and see if any of these monthly payers align with your investment style.

Data is as of Nov. 21. Dividend yields are calculated by annualizing the most recent payout and dividing by the share price. Fund discount/premium to NAV and expense ratio provided by CEF Connect.

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Realty Income

7-11 store7-11 store
  • Market value: $40.1 billion
  • Dividend yield: 4.2%

Perhaps no stock in history has been more associated with monthly dividends than conservative triple-net retail REIT Realty Income (O, $70.91). The company went so far as to trademark the “The Monthly Dividend Company” as its official nickname.

Realty Income is a stock, of course, and its share price can be just as volatile as any other stock. But it’s still as close to a bond as you’re going to get in the stock market. It has stable recurring rental cash flows from its empire of more than 7,000 properties spread across roughly 650 tenants.

Realty Income focuses on high-traffic retail properties that are generally recession-proof and, perhaps more importantly, “” Perhaps no business is completely free of risk of competition from (AMZN) and other e-commerce titans, but Realty Income comes close. 

Its largest tenants include 7-Eleven, Walgreens Boots Alliance (WBA), FedEx (FDX) and Home Depot (HD), among others. The portfolio had relatively high exposure to gyms and movie theaters, which made the pandemic painful. But as the world gets closer to normal with every passing day, Realty Income’s COVID-19 risk gets reduced that much more.

At current prices, Realty Income yields about 4.2%. While that’s not a monster yield, remember that the 10-year Treasury yields only 1.6%. 

It’s not the raw yield we’re looking for here, but rather income consistency and growth. As of this writing, Realty Income has made 616 consecutive monthly dividend payments and has raised its dividend for 96 consecutive quarters – making it a proud member of the S&P 500 Dividend Aristocrats. Since going public in 1994, Realty Income has grown its dividend at a compound annual growth rate of 4.5%, well ahead of inflation.

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Stag Industrial

  • Market value: $7.6 billion
  • Dividend yield: 3.4%

Realty Income was pretty darn close to “” But fellow monthly payer STAG Industrial (STAG, $42.77) proactively benefits from the rise of internet commerce.

STAG invests in logistics and light industrial properties. You know those gritty warehouse properties you might see near the airport with 18-wheelers constantly coming and going? That’s exactly the kind of property that STAG buys and holds.

It’s a foregone conclusion that e-commerce is growing by leaps and bounds, and STAG is positioned to profit from it. Approximately 40% of STAG’s portfolio handles e-commerce fulfillment or other activity, and is its largest tenant.

E-commerce spiked during the pandemic for obvious reasons. As stores have reopened, the effects of that spike have dissipated somewhat, but the trend here is clear. We’re making a larger percentage of our purchases online.

Yet there’s still plenty of room for growth. As crazy as this might sound, only about 15% of retail sales are made online, according to Statista. Furthermore, the logistical space is highly fragmented, and Stag’s management estimates the value of their market to be around $1 trillion. In other words, it’s unlikely STAG will be running out of opportunities any time soon.

STAG isn’t sexy. But it’s one of the best monthly dividend stocks to buy in 2022, with a long road of growth in front of it. And its 3.4% yield is competitive in this market.

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Gladstone Commercial

industrial parkindustrial park
  • Market value: $838.2 million
  • Dividend yield: 6.7%

For another gritty industrial play, consider the shares of Gladstone Commercial (GOOD, $22.49). Gladstone Commercial, like STAG, has a large portfolio of logistical and light industrial properties. Approximately 48% of its rental revenues come from industrial properties with another 48% coming from office properties. The remaining 4% is split between retail properties, at 3%, and medical offices at 1%.

It’s a diversified portfolio that has had little difficulty navigating the crazy volatility of the past few years. As of Sept. 30, 2021, the REIT had a portfolio of 127 properties spread across 27 states and leased to 109 distinct tenants. In management’s own words, “We have grown our portfolio 18% per year in a consistent, disciplined manner since our IPO in 2003. Our occupancy stands at 97.7% and has never dipped below 95.0%.”

That’s not a bad run.

Gladstone Commercial has also been one of the most consistent monthly dividend stocks, paying one uninterrupted since January 2005. GOOD currently yields an attractive 6.7%.

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EPR Properties

movie theater and tub of popcornmovie theater and tub of popcorn
  • Market value: $3.7 billion
  • Dividend yield: 6.1%

The COVID-19 pandemic was rough on a lot of landlords. But few were as uniquely battered as EPR Properties (EPR, $49.21). EPR owns a diverse and eclectic portfolio of movie theaters, amusement parks, ski parks, “eat and play” properties like Topgolf, and a host of others.

EPR specializes in experiences over things … which is just about the worst way to be positioned at a time when social distancing was the norm. Essentially every property EPR owned was closed for at least a time, and crowds still haven’t returned to pre-COVID levels across much of the portfolio.

But the key here is that the worst is long behind EPR Properties, and the more normal life becomes, the better the outlook for EPR’s tenants.

EPR was a consistent dividend payer and raiser pre-pandemic. But with its tenants facing an existential crisis, the REIT cut its dividend in 2020. With business conditions massively improving in 2021, EPR reinstated its monthly dividend in July, and the shares now yield an attractive 6.1%. If you believe in life after COVID, EPR is one of the best monthly dividend stocks to play it.

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LTC Properties

senior living propertysenior living property
  • Market value: $1.3 billion
  • Dividend yield: 6.7%

For one final “traditional” REIT, consider the shares of LTC Properties (LTC, $34.24).

LTC faces some short-term headwinds due to the lingering effects of the pandemic, but its longer-term outlook is bright. LTC is a REIT with a portfolio roughly split equally between senior living properties and skilled nursing facilities.

Needless to say, COVID-19 was hard on this sector. Nursing homes were particularly susceptible to outbreaks, and nursing home residents were at particularly high risk given their age. 

Senior living properties are different in that the tenants are generally younger and live independently without medical care. But a lot of would-be tenants were reluctant to move out of their homes and into a more densely populated building during a raging pandemic. And many still are.

These lingering effects won’t disappear tomorrow. But ultimately, senior living facilities offer an attractive, active lifestyle for many seniors, and that hasn’t fundamentally changed. And home care might be a viable option for many seniors in need of skilled nursing. Ultimately there comes a point where there are few alternatives to the care of a nursing home.

Importantly, the longer-term demographic trends here are all but unstoppable. The peak of the Baby Boomer generation are in their early-to-mid-60s today, far too young to need long-term care. But over the course of the next two decades, demand will continue to build as more and more boomers age into the proper age bracket for these services.

At 6.7%, LTC is one of the higher-yielding monthly dividend stocks on this list.

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AGNC Investment

couple going over financials with mortgage brokercouple going over financials with mortgage broker
  • Market value: $8.4 billion
  • Dividend yield: 9.0%

AGNC Investment (AGNC, $15.98) is a REIT, strictly speaking, but it’s very different from the likes of Realty Income, STAG or any of the others covered on this list of monthly dividend stocks. Rather than own properties, AGNC owns a portfolio of mortgage securities. This gives it the same tax benefits of a REIT – no federal income taxes so long as the company distributes at least 90% of its net income as dividends – but a very different return profile.

Mortgage REITs (mREITs) are designed to be income vehicles with capital gains not really much of a priority. As such, they tend to be monster yielders. Case in point: AGNC yields 9%.

Say “AGNC” out loud. It sounds a lot like “agency,” right?

There’s a reason for that. AGNC invests exclusively in agency mortgage-backed securities, meaning bonds and other securities issued by Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, Ginnie Mae or the Federal Home Loan Banks. This makes it one of the safest plays in this space.

And here’s a nice kicker: AGNC almost always trades at a premium to book value, which makes sense. You and I lack the capacity to replicate what AGNC does in house and lack access to financing on the same terms. Those benefits have value, which show up in a premium share price. Yet today, AGNC trades at a 9% discount to book value. That’s a fantastic price for the stock in this space.

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Dynex Capital

little house on chartlittle house on chart
  • Market value: $640.6 million
  • Dividend yield: 8.9%

Along the same lines, let’s take a look at Dynex Capital (DX, $17.47). Like AGNC, Dynex is a mortgage REIT, though its portfolio is a little more diverse. Approximately 85% of its portfolio is invested in agency residential mortgage-backed securities – bonds made out of the mortgages of ordinary Americans – but it also has exposure to commercial mortgage-backed securities and a small allocation to non-agency securities.

It’s important to remember that the mortgage REIT sector was eviscerated by the COVID-19 bear market. When the world first went under lockdown, it wasn’t immediately clear that millions of Americans would be able to continue paying their mortgages, which led investors to sell first and ask questions later. In the bloodbath that followed, many mortgage REITs took catastrophic losses and some failed altogether.

Dynex is one of the survivors. And frankly, any mortgage REIT that could survive the upheaval of 2020 is one that can likely survive the apocalypse. Your risk of ruin should be very modest here.

Dynex trades at a slight discount to book value and sports a juicy 8.9% yield. We could see some volatility in the space if the Fed ever gets around to raising rates, but for now this looks like one of the best monthly dividend stocks to buy if you’re looking to really pick up some yield.

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Broadmark Realty

real estate contract with keys and penreal estate contract with keys and pen
  • Market value: $1.3 billion
  • Dividend yield: 8.6%

Broadmark Realty (BRMK, $9.75) isn’t a “mortgage REIT,” per se, as it doesn’t own mortgages or mortgage-backed securities. But it does something awfully similar. Broadmark manages a portfolio of deed of trust loans for the purpose of funding development or investment in real estate.

This is a little different than AGNC or Dynex. These mortgage REITs primarily trade standardized mortgage-backed securities. Broadmark instead deals with the less-liquid world of construction loans.

Still, BRMK runs a conservative book. The weighted average loan-to-value of its portfolio is a very modest 60%. In other words, Broadmark would lend no more than $60,000 for a property valued at $100,000. This gives the company a wide margin of error in the event of a default by a borrower.

At current prices, Broadmark yields an attractive 8.6%. The company initiated its monthly dividend in late 2019 and sailed through the pandemic with no major issues.  

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Main Street Capital

person doing business on computerperson doing business on computer
  • Market value: $3.2 billion
  • Dividend yield: 5.5%

We know that the pandemic hit Main Street a lot harder than Wall Street. It is what it is.

But what about business development companies. This is where the proverbial Main Street means the proverbial Wall Street. BDCs provide debt and equity capital mostly to middle-market companies. These are entities that have gotten a little big to get financing from bank loans and retained earnings but aren’t quite big enough yet to warrant a stock or bond IPO. BDCs exist to bridge that gap.

The appropriately named Main Street Capital (MAIN, $46.61) is a best-in-class BDC based in Houston, Texas. The last two years were not particularly easy for Main Street’s portfolio companies, as many smaller firms were less able to navigate the lockdowns. But the company persevered, and its share price recently climbed above its pre-pandemic highs.

Main Street has a conservative monthly dividend model in that it pays a relatively modest monthly dividend, but then uses any excess earnings to issue special dividends twice per year. This keeps Main Street out of trouble and prevents it from suffering the embarrassment of a dividend cut in years where earnings might be temporarily depressed.

As far as monthly dividend stocks go, Main Street’s regular payout works out to a respectable 5.6%, and this does not include the special dividends.

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Prospect Capital

man signing contractman signing contract
  • Market value: $3.5 billion
  • Dividend yield: 8.0%

For another high-yielding, monthly-paying BDC, consider the shares of Prospect Capital (PSEC, $8.97).

Like most BDCs, Prospect Capital provides debt and equity financing to middle-market companies. The company has been publicly traded since 2004, so it’s proven to be a survivor in what has been a wildly volatile two decades.

Prospect Capital is objectively cheap, as it trades at just 89% of book value. Book value itself can be somewhat subjective, of course. But the 11% gives us a good degree of wiggle room. It’s safe to say the company, even under conservative assumptions, is selling for less than the value of its underlying portfolio. It also yields a very healthy 8.0%.

As a general rule, insider buying is a good sign. When the management team is using their own money to buy shares, that shows a commitment to the company and an alignment of interests. Well, over the course of the past two years, the management team bought more than 29 million PSEC shares combined. These weren’t stock options or executive stock grants. These are shares that the insiders bought themselves in their brokerage accounts.

That’s commitment.

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Ecofin Sustainable and Social Impact Term Fund

Ecofin logoEcofin logo
  • Assets under management: $269.7 million
  • Distribution Rate: 6.0%*
  • Discount/premium to NAV: -14.3%
  • Expense ratio: 2.28%**

There’s something to be said for orphan stocks. There are certain stocks or funds that simply don’t have a “normal” go-to buying clientele.

As a case in point, consider the Ecofin Sustainable and Social Impact Term Fund (TEAF, $15.00). This is a fund that straddles the divide between traditional energy infrastructure like pipelines and green energy projects like solar panels. It also invests in “social impact” sectors like education and senior living. Approximately 68% of the portfolio is dedicated to sustainable infrastructure with energy infrastructure and social impact investments making up 13% and 19%, respectively.

But this isn’t the only way the fund is eclectic. It’s also a unique mixture of public and private investments. 52% is invested in publicly traded stocks with the remaining 48% invested in private, non-traded companies.

Is it any wonder that Wall Street has no idea what to do with this thing?

This lack of obvious buying clientele helps to explain why the fund trades at a large discount to net asset value of 15%.

That’s okay. We can buy this orphan stock, enjoy its 6% yield, and wait for that discount to NAV to close. And close it will. The fund is scheduled to liquidate in about 10 years, meaning the assets will be sold off and cash will be distributed to investors. Buying and holding this position at a deep discount would seem like a no-brainer of a strategy. 

Learn more about TEAF at the Ecofin provider site.

* Distribution rate is an annualized reflection of the most recent payout and is a standard measure for CEFs. Distributions can be a combination of dividends, interest income, realized capital gains and return of capital.

** Includes 1.50% in management fees, 0.28% in other expenses and 0.50% in interest expenses.

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BlackRock Municipal 2030 Target Term

BlackRock logoBlackRock logo
  • Assets under management: $1.9 billion 
  • Distribution rate: 2.9%
  • Discount/premium to NAV: -4.6%
  • Expense ratio: 1.01%**

We’ll wrap this up with another term fund, the BlackRock Municipal 2030 Target Term Fund (BTT, $25.49).

As its name suggests, the fund is designed to be liquidated in 2030, roughly eight years from now. A lot can happen in eight years, of course. But buying a portfolio of safe municipal bonds trading at a more than 4% discount to book value would seem like a smart move.

The biggest selling point of muni bonds is, of course, the tax-free income. The bond interest isn’t subject to federal income taxes. And while city, state and local bonds aren’t “risk free” – only the U.S. government can make that claim – defaults and financial distress in this space is rare. So, you’re getting a safe, tax-free payout. That’s not too shabby.

As of Oct. 29, 2021, BTT’s portfolio was spread across 633 holdings with its largest holding accounting for about 3.4%.

BTT sports a dividend yield of 2.9%. That’s not “high yield” by any stretch of the imagination. But remember, the payout is tax free, and if you’re in the 37% tax bracket, your tax-equivalent yield is a much more palatable 4.6%.

Learn more about BTT at the BlackRock provider site.

** Includes 0.40% in management fees, 0.61% in interest and other expenses


Qualified Opportunity Zone Investing 101

In Congress, political discourse took a temporary break from feuding when both sides supported creating significant tax incentives for Qualified Opportunity Zone (QOZ) investing — as part of the 2017 Tax Cut and Jobs Act. The Act was co-authored by Sens. Cory Booker, a Democrat from New Jersey, and Tim Scott, a Republican from South Carolina.

The concept centers around tax incentives for those who invest capital in designated areas around the country that could benefit from economic development. The idea is to reward investors who are helping in areas where revitalization is most needed.

How much money is flowing into Opportunity Zones is hard to gauge. However, research firm Novogradic reported that over $12 billion streamed into Qualified Opportunity Zone funds during 2020, and that number is expected to be significantly higher in 2021 and even higher going into 2022.

Qualified Opportunity Zones

So why are investors flocking to Qualified Opportunity Zones – or “QOZs” –  in staggering numbers?

It is because of tax breaks, of course, and significant breaks at that.

Investors are lining up for the tax benefit of deferring capital gains until 2026 and then paying them in 2027 when they are due.

If held for a full 10 years, all the real estate investment gains can be 100% tax-free. That’s huge, and savvy real estate people know it. However, Congress also created a set of flexible rules, because taxpayers generally have 180 days from the date a capital gain is triggered in which they can invest that gain, or a portion thereof in a QOZ, and defer federal income tax on the gain.

Aren’t These Investment Opportunities in Really Bad Areas?

But wait a minute, a skeptical investor says, Arent these investment opportunities in really bad areas where maybe no one would want to invest their capital?That’s a good question.

To gain some insight, let’s go back to when this legislation was formed. In the U.S., 8,760 Census Tract areas are designated as QOZs. When this legislation was created, the governor of each state was asked to participate in naming the areas in their state that could benefit most from economic development.

As you might expect, many of these areas are economically blighted, and some are high-crime areas. Many are just rural parts of the country and lack services and opportunities for the residents. Some areas, however, are what real estate investors are calling “diamonds in the rough.” These are areas that developers’ studies  show to be ripe and ready for development due to shifting demographics that provide a real demand for real estate development and bring services and an increased tax base to a community in need.  

It’s important to note that when these areas were selected, it was 2010 Census data that was used for the selection. Much can change in a decade, and today, real estate developers are finding many QOZ areas can stand on their own two feet, apart from all the tax-favored treatment.

It’s been said that tax incentives won’t make a bad deal a good deal, but they can make a good deal a great deal, and herein exists the ethos of why so many investors are doing well by doing good. Below is a map of all the Qualified Opportunity Zones in the United States.

A U.S. map shows where the opportunity zones are located across the country.A U.S. map shows where the opportunity zones are located across the country.

How Qualified Opportunity Zone Investing Works

Bill and Linda (not their real names) owned a machine shop in Durham, North Carolina, for 32 years. The business had belonged to Bill’s father, who had long since retired.

Bill and Linda were both 62 years old and had just begun to think about retirement. Their two grown children had taken positions in Texas, and Bill and Linda’s first grandbaby was soon to be born.

Selling the Business

Conversations kept coming up about selling the business and moving to Texas to be closer to the kids. The business was a grind, and Bill and Linda reasoned that being closer to the kids was a sound move as they aged, and they were certain they didn’t want to miss seeing their grandbabies growing up.

As luck would have it, no sooner than Bill put the word out that they may be selling, three potential buyers expressed interest, and one buyer provided them with a letter of intent and a written purchase offer of $2 million.

Tax Impact

Bill and Linda had been working with their CPA, Ed, for 32 years and decided it was time to bring Ed into the conversation. First, Ed said he would need a couple of days to run the calculation as to what the tax bill might look like. Then, he mentioned something about basis, depreciation, net investment income tax, capital gains taxes, and other considerations he would need to examine to determine the impact of taxes upon the sale were it to go through.


Ed also told Bill and Linda that they had better start thinking about what they would do with the funds left over and how they would invest those funds for retirement income. This statement stopped Bill and Linda in their tracks. Neither Bill nor Linda had ever spent much time learning about investing. They had funded IRAs and investment accounts with their local Edward Jones agent at their CPA’s suggestion but had never been overly impressed with how the funds had grown. The accounts were up and then down and then back up again. The adviser talked to Bill and Linda in terms they found difficult to understand, and after talking things over, Bill and Linda knew they would not want to turn the sale proceeds over to their local adviser.

The Burden of Selling a Business

Suddenly, both Bill and Linda begin to feel the heaviness of the burden of selling their business, the taxes that would be involved, moving, how to invest and solving for retirement income. They knew they needed help, and while Ed was an excellent CPA, he did not offer the scope of services to address all their newfound and complex needs.

In Search of a Solution

Bill and Linda decided to turn to Google. They began searching for ideas for selling a business, tax-smart investing, income planning, real estate investing and retirement planning.

Qualified Opportunity Zones

The couple came across several articles about how capital gains taxes could be deferred and how investments could grow tax-free in something called Qualified Opportunity Zones. Bill and Linda had never heard of a Qualified Opportunity Zone, and since the benefits sounded attractive, they decided to reach out to Ed, their CPA, for his input.

As it happened, Ed had just in the last week attended a CPA continuing education class on QOZs. He told Bill and Linda that the QOZ might be an excellent idea for them and that he had not mentioned it to them before because he had only just learned about how QOZs could work for his clients and the tax and investment problems they could solve for investors.

Ed said he would work on a side-by-side comparison of investing in a QOZ with the sale proceeds versus paying the tax now and investing in whatever Bill and Linda decided to invest in.

The QOZ sounded attractive to Bill and Linda because it solved for both the taxes and the investment they would need to make with the sale proceeds. But they had to see the numbers first and get Ed’s blessing that this could be a good strategy for them. They trusted Ed’s input.

One week later, Ed presented to Bill and Linda the spreadsheet below.

A table compares the net cash after taxes on a $2M non-OZ investment ($3,010,464) vs. a $2M qualified opportunity fund investment ($4,489,085).A table compares the net cash after taxes on a $2M non-OZ investment ($3,010,464) vs. a $2M qualified opportunity fund investment ($4,489,085).

Paying the Tax Now

Ed’s first column calculation ran assumptions on paying the tax now, growing their money, and then paying capital gains tax on their gains over a 10-year period.

Deferring the Tax Until 2026 and Paid in 2027

Then he ran a QOZ comparison where all the cap gains taxes were deferred until 2026 and paid in 2027. He calculated that all the investment gains would be tax-free per the rules of the QOZ legislation, and then he further calculated that cap gains rates would be going up in the future significantly. He did this because Bill and Linda reasoned, as most people are these days, that taxes are headed up.

Bill and Linda were pleased to learn that they could potentially end up with almost $4.5 million in wealth for their retirement, net of all taxes — about $1.5 million more than if they had chosen an after-tax non-OZ investment approach.

QOZ Investment Portfolio

Bill and Linda had reached out to an advisory firm specializing in QOZs and were pleased to know that the investments would be made with high-quality firms with long and substantial track records.

The investments they were most interested in were in class-A apartment buildings and storage portfolios. Bill and Linda already had a much higher confidence in investing in real estate rather than in stocks and bonds, and then with the tax benefits factored in the deal seemed like the perfect solution to their needs. 

Registered Investment Advisers

QOZs are offered today by fiduciary-based Registered Investment Advisers and by the Broker-Dealer community. They are registered securities that are available only by Private Placement Memorandum and only to Accredited Investors.

Investors should seek competent tax and legal counsel and perform their due diligence on any real estate QOZ opportunities.

Ed’s Assumptions for his calculations

  • The source of investment is from a gain that qualifies for OZ benefits.
  • Assumes that the new OZ investment is held for the required 10 years to be eligible for all OZ benefits.
  • Note that the deferred gain taxed in 2026 will be at the rates in effect at that time. However, future changes to the tax law could result in higher rates.
  • The calculation does not include the positive net present value benefit of deferring payment of the original capital gain until the 2026 tax return.
  • The simplified model assumes a single investment and return of appreciated value after 10 years at a 10% rate of return.
  • The model uses the Excel Future Value (FV) function to calculate the value of each investment using a fixed figure entered by the user for the OZ investment.
  • The model does not account for other complex tax-basis matters, such as depreciation and periodic cash distributions.
  • This is a simplified illustration and should not replace personal and individual tax and legal counsel.

No tax advice in this article is to be used by any taxpayer to avoid penalties. 10% step-up in basis ends Dec. 31, 2021. Investors should seek competent tax and legal counsel and perform their due diligence on any real estate QOZ opportunities.

Chief Investment Strategist, Provident Wealth Advisors

Daniel Goodwin is the Chief Investment Strategist and founder of Provident Wealth Advisors, Goodwin Financial Group and, a division of Provident Wealth. Daniel holds a series 65 Securities license as well as a Texas Insurance license. Daniel is an Investment Advisor Representative and a fiduciary for the firms’ clients. Daniel has served families and small-business owners in his community for over 25 years.


7 percent of personal income in 2020 came from unemployment benefits

The information provided on this website does not, and is not intended to, act as legal, financial or credit advice. See Lexington Law’s editorial disclosure for more information.

Following the COVID-19 pandemic, many people—primarily people who worked in the hospitality and service industries—were laid off from work. To mitigate the economic impact, Congress passed several bills that included stimulus payments and pandemic unemployment assistance (PUA). These benefits, in addition to others, provided a higher level of income to people and affected their spending habits.

Still, the economy didn’t act as many experts predicted. Despite a high unemployment rate and a recession, the COVID-19 pandemic didn’t follow typical recession patterns. The Federal Reserve Bank of New York published an analysis in which it stated, “The recession was unique in the speed with which it took hold, the types of workers it affected and the nature and size of the policy response.” 

With PUA, the average worker earned 145 percent of their income in 2020

PUA was rolled out during the pandemic, and according to JP Morgan Chase & Co., the PUA resulted in massive increases in personal income: “It authorized a $600-per-week supplement, which increased the value of unemployment benefits, such that the median jobless worker received unemployment benefits equal to 145% of their pre-job loss wages compared to 50% in normal times.” 

This increase in income is greatly reflected in some of the spending that occurred during the pandemic. Surprisingly, during a time of economic uncertainty and decreased job security, individuals paid off debt at rapid rates.

The first stimulus check was officially signed and announced on March 27, 2020. Qualifying Americans were told they would receive this first check as early as mid-April. This seemed to spur instant action among consumers. On April 15, there was a sudden spike in debt payments as people started to receive their first check. These payments were 25 percent higher than the previous tax season. 

Once Americans began receiving their pandemic relief payments, debt repayment continued to be a priority. The rate of debt lump-sum payments was 50 percent higher than the previous year. And individuals who signed up for debt payment plans chose short payment terms with higher monthly payments. 

Americans repaid close to $83 billion in credit card debt in 2020, which was a new record. It was clearly a challenging year in many ways, but for some, it was an opportunity to get rid of debt and become more financially secure. 

Under the CARES Act, more people qualified for unemployment benefits

Another notable reason for the personal income growth is simply that more people qualified for these new unemployment benefits. The CARES Act expanded eligibility for the PUA program. This adjustment allowed self-employed individuals and contingent workers to receive unemployment benefits. These employees could also continue to work while collecting PUA benefits. However, they had to report all income earned, and this income would be calculated against future benefits. 

Unemployment benefits contributed to 7 percent of total personal income in June 2020

During the Great Recession around 2008, unemployment benefits accounted—at their peak—for 1 percent of people’s personal income. The COVID-19 pandemic broke this record many times over. A fast and significant rise in unemployment benefits meant that, on average, 7 percent of people’s personal income in June 2020 was from unemployment benefits. 

Some theorize that social financing from the government keeps people from returning to work. This argument especially singles out people who received unemployment benefits on par with or greater than their regular income. However, multiple studies have shown this to be false. For example, one study of the pandemic found that there is “no evidence that the additional pandemic compensation passed under the CARES Act last year ‘held back the labor market recovery.’” 

Spending of the unemployed was actually higher than that of the employed

A study conducted by Chase monitoring the spending habits of clients who received—and lost—unemployment benefits during 2020 found some nontraditional patterns. For example, the unemployed actually increased their spending by 22 percent (compared to when they were employed) after receiving their benefits. However, the same group also saw a 14 percent spending decrease in August when the $600 benefit ended. 

This is a particularly interesting behavior because normally, even with unemployment benefits, people tend to decrease their spending after losing a job. 

At one point, spending by the unemployed was higher than that of the employed. From April to July, the unemployed spent 11 percent more than their employed counterparts. However, this shifted back in August, at which point the unemployed spent 1 percent less than the employed. 

So, what did people spend their money on? According to research from JP Morgan, during the pandemic, consumers increased spending on household cleaners, soap, hair color, vitamins and supplements and coffee. The products that saw more than a 25 percent drop in purchase rates included cosmetics and sun care products.

These spending patterns align with the general thinking and behaviors during COVID-19. People were worried about their safety and health and purchased cleaning products and vitamins. They couldn’t go to salons and worked from home, so they had to buy more coffee and hair products. On the other hand, people stopped leaving the house and going to events, so cosmetics and sun care products weren’t necessary anymore. 

People facing unemployment doubled their savings with PUA

The unemployed roughly doubled their liquid savings over the four months between March and July 2020 but then spent two-thirds of the accumulated savings in August alone. This behavior really tells the story of the average unemployed person during the pandemic.

During unemployment, there were limited recreational activities to take part in, so saving was relatively easy. However, when the PUA stopped in August, the job market was just as tight as ever before. As people struggled to find jobs, they had to dip into those savings to pay their living costs. 

When PUA ended, most households spent in one month what they had saved over the previous months

The typical unemployed family spent all that they had saved over the course of the previous four months in just one month. As mentioned above, this is likely due to the sudden stop of PUA and the inability to get hired immediately. 

Another factor is where individuals chose to put their money. For example, RV company Outdoorsy saw an increase in revenue of 4,600 percent from April 2020 to October 2020. While travel by plane became somewhat more complicated, people sought alternatives, and the RV industry saw a massive spike. 

If individuals were sitting on several months’ worth of savings, they could have spent all that money at once on debt repayment, big purchases or living costs. 

Unemployment resources and financial aid

To date, 25 states have said they’ll be ending federal unemployment insurance programs, including the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program (PUA). The PUA is coming to an end for good reason. Widespread vaccination is in process, and the economy is slowly opening up again. Additionally, the unemployment rate is on the decline. 

Still, this change can feel overwhelming for those who depend on PUA or are having trouble finding a new job. If you’re concerned about your finances or the state of your credit score, please feel free to reach out to our services for a free credit consultation. There are ways we can help you prepare and set yourself up for financial security. 

Reviewed by John Heath, Directing Attorney of Lexington Law Firm. Written by Lexington Law.

Born and raised in Salt Lake City, John Heath earned his BA from the University of Utah and his Juris Doctor from Ohio Northern University. John has been the Directing Attorney of Lexington Law Firm since 2004. The firm focuses primarily on consumer credit report repair, but also practices family law, criminal law, general consumer litigation and collection defense on behalf of consumer debtors. John is admitted to practice law in Utah, Colorado, Washington D. C., Georgia, Texas and New York.

Note: Articles have only been reviewed by the indicated attorney, not written by them. The information provided on this website does not, and is not intended to, act as legal, financial or credit advice; instead, it is for general informational purposes only. Use of, and access to, this website or any of the links or resources contained within the site do not create an attorney-client or fiduciary relationship between the reader, user, or browser and website owner, authors, reviewers, contributors, contributing firms, or their respective agents or employers.


The Cost of Living in San Antonio

San Antonio is one of the best places to live in Texas. You’ll have access to an abundance of bars, restaurants, shopping and entertainment opportunities.

People who live in San Antonio say it’s Texas’ best-kept secret. And most of them would like to keep it that way! That doesn’t mean they’re not open to new neighbors, though. If you’re thinking of moving to The Alamo City, you’re in good company. On average, approximately 66 people move to the city every day.

With affordable real estate and lower than average rent, combined with the big city amenities and a small-town feel, it’s no wonder San Antonio is booming.

The cost of living in San Antonio is below the national average by 7.5 percent, making a move to this city an affordable option for many. To find out if San Antonio is right for you, consider the cost of living in the following categories.

San Antonio Riverwalk high rise

San Antonio Riverwalk high rise

Housing costs in San Antonio

The biggest part of your monthly budget is your rent. According to financial experts, the “rule of thumb” when it comes to renting is that it should make up no more than 30 percent of your monthly budget. However, according to a 2020 Harvard report, nearly 25 percent of renters spend over half their budget on rental fees.

What you decide to spend on rent is up to you and where you decide to live, which is why it’s smart to check out rental fees in various cities. You might be able to find the apartment of your dreams at an affordable rate (that doesn’t eat up half your income) in a city like San Antonio.

So, how does this city stack up? The average rent in San Antonio is 16.8 percent cheaper than the U.S. average. You can expect to pay about $1,103 per month, which is an 18.3 percent decrease from the previous year.

Of course, some neighborhoods are a bit pricier, like Downtown San Antonio. There you’ll pay a little less than $2,000 per month on rent.

Or, you might pay less if you move to a neighborhood like Woodlawn Hills, where the average rental fees are around $750 per month.

Average rent prices in cities near San Antonio

If you aren’t comfortable with the average rent in San Antonio or aren’t sure if this city is the right one for you, you still have plenty of options. Texas is full of awesome cities that have the amenities that will fit your needs — and at prices that fit your budget.

In addition to browsing through various neighborhoods in San Antonio, you can also research nearby cities, such as the following.

Home prices in San Antonio

Another option is to save up your money and put a down payment on a San Antonio home. Many people feel this is a better option than renting because you’re putting your money into something that’s going to appreciate and benefit you (and potentially other members of your family) instead of simply putting money into a landlord’s pocket.

The average price for a home in San Antonio is $279,000 — an amazing price considering houses in some cities like Los Angeles, CA or Manhattan, NY go for $920,000 and $1,170,000, respectively, on average. Even Dallas, TX has significantly higher housing prices (averaging nearly $400,000).

However, San Antonio is booming, which means the housing market is very competitive right now. On average, homes sell for between 1 and 5 percent higher than the asking price and sell within 11 to 18 days.

What about your mortgage payment? Depending on your down payment and the price of the home you’re interested in, you can expect to pay at least $1,188 per month, according to Redfin. This is higher than the average rent in San Antonio, so you’ll definitely have to weigh the pros and cons of renting vs. buying.

Tex Mex food in San Antonio

Tex Mex food in San Antonio

Food costs in San Antonio

Another category that can quickly and substantially increase the cost of living in San Antonio (or any city for that matter) is food costs, which fall into two categories: groceries and eating out.

Most people will tell you that eating out is more expensive than eating at home. But for a lot of people, eating out is a necessity at times due to their busy schedule, which contributes not only to a lack of time but also to exhaustion.

Thankfully, you have plenty of dining options in San Antonio. If you’re a fan of Bon Appétit magazine, then you’ll love their recommendations, like the 2M Smokehouse, which is where you’ll find the best barbeque in Texas. But there’s more to Texas cuisine than barbeque. You’ll also find:

  • Seafood
  • Vegetarian restaurants
  • Chinese
  • Japanese
  • Middle Eastern
  • Italian
  • Ethiopian
  • Jamaican

Just to name a few!

The average cost of a meal out is around $13, though that’s for budget-friendly options. If you choose to eat at a fine dining establishment or want to have your food delivered (with delivery fees and driver tips), expect to pay much more.

Eating at home

If you’re trying to save money, you can cook most (if not all) of your meals at home. Grocery costs in San Antonio are 10 percent cheaper than the national average.

Let’s say you want to make some fried chicken with a side of corn and a coke for a fast and easy, Southern comfort meal. Your grocery bill for that meal will be around $3.82. Other cities in the country will average a bill of about $4.45. It doesn’t seem like a huge difference but when you’re doing your weekly or monthly shopping, it will add up. And you’ll really be able to see the difference when you evaluate what you spent on food over the course of a year.

Utility costs in San Antonio

Utility costs in San Antonio are also lower than the national average by 11.3 percent. Utilities are one of the most important figures to factor into the cost of living in San Antonio. They can quickly and radically increase your costs each month, including the average rent in San Antonio.

The average monthly electricity/power bill in the U.S. is $161.20. In San Antonio, the average cost is $136.97.

Other utilities include:

San Antonio high way

San Antonio high way

Transportation costs in San Antonio

Another important feature of the cost of living in San Antonio is transportation. After all, you need to get to and from work and be able to run errands efficiently — and affordably — if possible.

Fortunately, transportation costs in San Antonio are 4.6 percent lower than the national average. These costs include:

  • Public transit: A one-way trip on the VIA Metropolitan Transit bus costs $1.30. You can purchase a 7-day pass for $12 or a month-long pass for $38.00. The Transit Score for San Antonio is 37.
  • Parking: The average parking rate in the city is $5.50 per hour or $16 for 24 hours.
  • Fuel: A gallon of gas is currently around $2.43, which is 12.7 percent cheaper than the national average and 59.54 percent cheaper than the price of gas in Sacramento, CA.
  • Vehicle maintenance: One of the most common maintenance fees is tire rotation and balancing. You’ll pay about $59.50 for this service in San Antonio, which is 12.7 percent higher than the U.S. average.

Another common way to get around a city is to walk or bike. While this is possible in San Antonio, the walkability and bike scores aren’t great. They are well-below average (38 and 45, respectively). However, San Antonio is trying to change that.

In addition to the mostly flat topography of the city, you’ll also have access to San Antonio B-Cycle, which is a bike-share program that has over 50 stations throughout the city. For a 30-minute ride, you can rent a bike for $3.75. Or you can purchase a monthly or annual membership for $22 per month or $100 per year.

Healthcare costs in San Antonio

Though this is an important category in which to figure out your unique cost of living in San Antonio, these prices are typically difficult to determine. The reason for this is because healthcare impacts every person differently.

Some people pay less because they’re single, healthy and have great insurance. Others pay more because they don’t have insurance. And others may pay more even if they have insurance because they must pay for the coverage of a spouse/partner and dependents and/or have chronic health conditions that require frequent trips to the doctor or regular prescription medications.

Overall, the cost of healthcare in San Antonio is 6 percent lower than the national average. If you make an appointment for your annual physical, you’ll pay $116 for that visit. In other cities in the U.S., you’ll pay around $112.81. A trip to the dentist will cost $91.33 before insurance, whereas residents of other cities will pay approximately $99.44.

Over-the-counter drugs and prescription medications range from 4.27 percent to 6.35 percent cheaper, respectively.

San Antonio Riverwalk

San Antonio Riverwalk

Goods and services costs in San Antonio

Non-essential goods and services can radically increase the cost of living in San Antonio if you’re not careful. We don’t always pay attention to these costs because, while we purchase or invest in them regularly, most aren’t a monthly expense like rent or food.

Getting a baseline idea of how much you spend each month on these items can give you a good idea of whether you can afford the average rent in San Antonio.

On average, the cost of goods and services in San Antonio is 1 percent higher than the national average. For the most part, that’s not a huge price hike but if you’re like most people, you’ll want to look for a deal to save a few bucks each month.

Here are a few price comparisons.

  • Haircut: $27 in San Antonio; $20 U.S. average
  • Yoga class: $18.20 in San Antonio; $15 national average
  • Visit the salon: $51.70 in San Antonio; $38.64 U.S. average
  • A trip to the movies: $11.88 in San Antonio; $11.12 national average
  • Veterinary check-up: $50.64 in San Antonio; $52.45 U.S. average

Taxes in San Antonio

One of the perks of living in San Antonio is that there’s no state income tax. However, you’ll still have to pay sales and property taxes, and these can end up being relatively higher than average.

If you choose to purchase a home in San Antonio for the median price ($279,000), you’ll pay around $5,496 each year in residential property taxes. The property tax rate is 1.970 percent and can exponentially increase the cost of living in San Antonio, depending on your mortgage rate and the price of your home.

The sales tax rate in San Antonio is 8.25 percent, 6.25 percent of which goes to the state of Texas. If you make a $1,000 purchase, you’ll end up paying an additional $82.50 in taxes.

How much do you need to earn to live in San Antonio?

How much you need to earn depends on the total cost of living in San Antonio, most of which you’ll likely allocate to your rental or mortgage fees. Many financial experts recommend spending no more than 30 percent on this expense.

If you’re paying the average rent in San Antonio, you’ll pay $13,236 per year toward rent. If that makes up 30 percent of your budget, you’ll need to make an additional $30,884 to live comfortably. That means your total annual income needs to amount to $44,120.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the average income in San Antonio is $52,455. If you make that, congratulations! You’ll be able to afford the average rent in San Antonio with a little extra leftover for an emergency fund, investments or other expenses that may increase your cost of living in San Antonio.

If you’re not sure whether you can afford to live in this fine Texas city, check out our free rental calculator to get a better idea of what you can afford.

Understanding the cost of living in San Antonio

The prospect of moving to a new city is a daunting one because there are so many unknown variables. But when you take the time to understand all the factors involved in figuring out the total cost of living in San Antonio, you’ll feel more confident about your decision to move to a new city. You’ll know that such a move is within budget, which will allow you to not only live comfortably in San Antonio but to thrive in your new hometown.

When you’re ready to make the move, make sure to check out our listings to find apartments for rent in San Antonio that are sure to make you feel at home.

Cost of living information comes from The Council for Community and Economic Research.
Rent prices are based on a rolling weighted average from Apartment Guide and’s multifamily rental property inventory of two-bedroom apartments as of August 2021. Our team uses a weighted average formula that more accurately represents price availability for each individual unit type and reduces the influence of seasonality on rent prices in specific markets.
The rent information included in this article is used for illustrative purposes only. The data contained herein do not constitute financial advice or a pricing guarantee for any apartment.


100+ Birthday Freebies — Celebrate With Free Stuff!

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Hooray! It’s your birthday!

The last thing you should do is pay for stuff. So we’ve put together a list of 100 places where you can get birthday freebies, updated for 2021.

Most of these places require you to sign up for their email list or join their rewards club at least seven days before your birthday.

So get busy now and enjoy the free birthday stuff as it rolls in on your big day.

103 Places to Get Birthday Freebies

These restaurants and retailers will provide you with free treats for your birthday. Be sure to sign up in advance.

Food & Drink

1. A&W All American Food

Get a free root beer float on your birthday by joining the Mug Club.

2. ABC Liquor

Sign up for ABC Liquor Access to get a “birthday gift.”

3. Abuelo’s

When you join the Mi Abuelo’s Rewards program, you’ll receive “special offers” on your birthday. You’ll also receive a special offer upon joining.

4. Acapulco

Sign up for the Acapulco eClub and get a free entree on your birthday. Plus, you’ll get a free appetizer with the purchase of an entree just for signing up.

5. Applebee’s

Sign up for the email club, and get $5 off when you spend at least $25. You’ll also get a free dessert on your birthday when you spend $15.

The exterior of an Arby's fast food restaurant.
Photo courtesy of Arby’s

6. Arby’s

Sign up for Arby’s emails and get a free small milkshake and curly fries on your birthday when you buy any sandwich. You’ll also get 50% off the sandwich or wrap of your choice when you sign up.

7. Au Bon Pain

Join the Eclub, and get a free coffee and pastry on your birthday. You’ll also get a travel mug just for signing up.

8. Auntie Anne’s

Download the Pretzel Perks app, and get a free pretzel on your birthday.

9. Baja Fresh

Sign up for Club Baja to get a “special offer” on your birthday.

10. Baskin Robbins

Create an account, join the Birthday Club, and get a free scoop of ice cream on your birthday.

11. bd’s Mongolian Grill

Get a free meal on your birthday when you join the bd’s Rewards eClub, plus get a $5 coupon just for signing up.

12. Benihana’s

Register for the Chef’s Table, and you’ll get a $30 birthday certificate.

13. Big Boy

Joining the I Love Big Boy email club gets you a free meal on your birthday.

14. BJ’s Brewhouse

Join Premier Rewards Plus and get a free Pizookie for your birthday. What’s that? It’s a big, warm cookie smothered in ice cream… yum. What’s even better is you don’t have to wait for your birthday – you’ll also get a free Pizookie just for signing up.

15. Black Angus Steakhouse

Join the Prime Club to get a free steak dinner on your first birthday as a member.

16. Bojangles

Get a free Bo-Berry Biscuit with a purchase on your birthday as a member of the Bojangles’ eClub.

17. Bruegger’s Bagels

Members of the Bruegger’s Bagels Inner Circle will enjoy a free bagel and cream cheese on their birthday, and another free bagel and cream cheese just for signing up.

18. Buca di Beppo

You’ll receive a free pasta after signing up, as well as a $20 birthday gift for joining the eClub.

The sign of Buffalo Wild Wings is photographed.
Tina Russell/ The Penny Hoarder

19. Buffalo Wild Wings

Sign up for Blazin’ Rewards to get free birthday wings during your birth month.

20. Carvel

Join Fudgie Fanatics to receive a free treat for your birthday. You can get a small soft serve birthday cone, take $2 off any cake (except for a small square) or take $3 off any sheet cake.

21. Chevys Fresh Mex

Members of the eClub get a free entree on their birthday, as well as a free appetizer for signing up.

22. Chick-fil-A

Join Chick-fil-A One to get a “birthday reward.”

23. Chili’s

Get a free dessert for your birthday when you join My Chili’s Rewards Club. Plus, as long as you spend $5, you get free chips and salsa or a non-alcoholic beverage with every visit!

24. Chipotle

Join the Chipotle rewards program to get free chips and guacamole on your birthday when you make a purchase of $5 or more. When you sign up and make your first purchase, you’ll also get free chips and a choice of guacamole, queso blanco or salsa.

25. Cinnabon

Subscribe to Club Cinnabon to get a free iced coffee on your birthday and a free order of BonBites for signing up.

26. Cold Stone Creamery

Get a BOGO coupon for your birthday by signing up for the My Cold Stone Club. You’ll also get a BOGO coupon just for signing up!

Two sundaes at Culver's.
Photo courtesy of Culver’s

27. Culver’s

Enjoy a free sundae on your birthday when you sign up for MyCulver’s. You’ll also get a BOGO value basket when you sign up.

28. Del Taco

If you join Del Yeah! Rewards, you can enjoy a regular-size premium shake for your birthday. If you’ve racked up more than 1,500 points, you’ll get your choice of a shake or any dessert — except for Caramel Cheesecake Bites.

Plus you’ll get two free The Del tacos when you sign up.

29. Denny’s

Sign up for Denny’s Rewards program online or via the mobile app. You’ll get 20% off your next visit, plus during your birthday month you’ll get your choice of a free dessert or a free Birthday Slam, which includes pancakes, eggs and your choice of bacon or sausage.

30. Dippin’ Dots

Get free Dippin’ Dots for your birthday when you join the Dot Crazy! Email Club.

31. Dunkin’ Donuts

Get a free beverage on your birthday by signing up for the DD Perks Rewards Program.

32. Edible Arrangements

Join Edible Rewards and receive a free 12-count chocolate dipped fruit box (valued at $29.99) during your birthday month as long as you’ve spent at least $29.99 in the past calendar year. You’ll also get a $5 coupon for signing up (valid for 30 days).

33. Einstein Bros. Bagels

Get a free egg sandwich with a purchase on your birthday when you join the Shmear Society — not totally free, but hey, you’ll need something to help wash that sandwich down. You’ll have 14 days to claim your reward.

34. Famous Dave’s

Join the Famous Nation and get a free dessert with a value of up to $9.00 for your birthday.

35. Firehouse Subs

Sign up for Firehouse Rewards for a free medium sub on your birthday or in the six days that follow it.

36. First Watch

Get a BOGO breakfast, brunch or lunch for your birthday as a member of the Sun EClub.

37. Friendly’s

When you become a BFF Club member, you’ll receive a free birthday sundae.

38. Godiva

As a member of the Godiva Rewards Club, you’ll get a free birthday chocolate offer every year.

39. Habit Burger Grill

Be sure to join Habit Burger Grill’s CharClub to enjoy a free Charburger on your birthday.

40. Hooters

Get 10 free boneless birthday wings when you sign up for Hootclub. You’ll also get a free appetizer of $8.99 or less when you sign up — and after every eighth visit..

41. Houlihan’s Restaurant and Bar

Email club members get a free birthday entree, plus $10 off just for joining.

42. IHOP

Sign up for MyHop and get free pancakes on your birthday. You’ll also get free pancakes on the anniversary of your sign-up.

A woman smiles as she holds up a drink and a sub she got for free from Jersey Mike's Subs.
Robin Hartill scored a free birthday sub she got from Jersey Mike’s Sub in Saint Petersburg, Fla. Tina Russell/ The Penny Hoarder

43. Jersey Mike’s Subs

Get a free birthday sub when you sign up for the email club.

44. Krispy Kreme

Krispy Kreme Rewards members receive a free Original Glazed Dozen. You’ll also get a free doughnut when you sign up.

45. Longhorn Steakhouse

As a member of the Longhorn Steakhouse’s eClub, you’ll get “special offers and coupons” on your birthday. You’ll also get a free appetizer with the purchase of an entree when you sign up.

46. Marie Callender’s

Join the eClub, and get $5 off the purchase of two entrees, plus two free slices of pie. You’ll also get a special dine-in offer for signing up. The company also sends special offers for your wedding anniversary and allows you to add family members so they can get birthday rewards.

47. Moe’s Southwest Grill

Sign up for Moe Rewards and get a coupon for a free birthday burrito, plus a free cup of queso just for signing up.

48. Nothing Bundt Cakes

Join the Nothing Bundt Cakes eClub and get a free Bundtlet on your birthday.

49. Olive Garden

Get a complimentary dessert on your birthday. No signup necessary..

50. On the Border

Join Border Rewardsand get a ‘special surprise’ on your birthday. Plus, when you sign up, you’ll get a free dessert with the purchase of an entree.

51. Pei Wei

Sign up for My Wei Rewards and choose from these birthday freebies: crab wontons, traditional edamame, vegetable spring rolls or pork egg roll. The reward will automatically appear in your app seven days prior to your birthday.

52. Perkins

Members of the MyPerkins Club receive a “special gift” on their birthdays. Plus you’ll get a 20% off coupon for signing up. You will also be able to add your children ages 12 and under so they can get birthday rewards, too.

53. Pinkberry

Sign up for a Pinkcard or download the app, and receive a free yogurt on your birthday.

54. Pita Pit

Sign up for the Pita Pit Rewards Club and receive a free pita on your birthday.

The exterior of Pizza Hut.
Photo courtesy of Pizza Hut

55. Pizza Hut

Join the Hut Rewards program to get a “birthday reward.”

56. Planet Smoothie

Join the Planet Smoothie Club and receive a free smoothie for your birthday.

57. Red Lobster

Enjoy a “birthday reward” when you sign up for the My Red Lobster Rewards program.

58. Red Robin

Register for the Red Robin Royalty Program, and get a free birthday burger.

59. Rita’s

Get a free Italian ice on your birthday when you download Rita’s Ice App.

60. Romano’s Macaroni Grill

Sign up for the email club, and get a free dessert on your birthday with the purchase of an adult entree.

61. Ruby Tuesday

As a member of So Connected, you’ll get a choice of a free burger or a free garden bar entree on your birthday. You’ll also get a $5 off coupon for signing up.

62. Sbarro

Become a member of the Slice Society to get a birthday surprise. You’ll also get a free New York slice when you buy a beverage after signing up.

63. Sonny’s BBQ

Get a free Big Deal Combo meal on your big day by joining the ‘Q Crew, plus a $5 coupon just for joining.

64. Sprinkles

Receive a free cupcake (make that a baker’s dozen if you’re a Red Velvet tier member) for your birthday when you join Sprinkles Perks.

Robin Hartill, an editor at The Penny Hoarder, sips an iced coffee she got for free on her birthday at Starbucks in Saint Petersburg, Fla.
Hartill sips an iced coffee she got for free on her birthday at Starbucks in Saint Petersburg, Fla. Tina Russell/ The Penny Hoarder

65. Starbucks

Get a birthday beverage or food item as a member of Starbucks Rewards.

66. Subway

Sign up for the Subway MyWay Rewards program and the sandwich-making company will give you “something special” on your birthday.

67. TCBY

Sign up for TCBY emails, and receive your first 3 ounces free on your birthday — as long as you’ve spent $100 at TCBY over the past year.

68. Texas Roadhouse

Sign up for the email club and you’ll get a free appetizer or a sidekick of ribs on your birthday.

69. The Melting Pot

Members of Club Fondue will get a “birthday voucher.”

70. The Spaghetti Warehouse

Join the Warehouse Club, and get a free meal on your birthday, plus a free appetizer with an entree purchase for becoming a member of the club.

71. Tijuana Flats

Become a Flathead and receive a free dessert for your birthday. You’ll also get a free Tijuana Trio when you sign up.

72. Tropical Smoothie Cafe

Download the Tropical Smoothie Cafe app to be eligible for a birthday reward. What you get depends on your loyalty tier, but it ranges from a $2 reward to a free menu item.

73. Uno Pizzeria & Grill

Join the Uno Extras program, and receive a birthday coupon, as well as a free individual pizza.

74. Waffle House

Make sure you’re a member of the Waffle House Regulars Club to receive a free waffle on your birthday. You’ll also get free hashbrowns when you sign up. Additionally, Regulars receive an Anniversary Bacon Coupon, seasonal coupons, and other offers throughout the year.

75. Wienerschnitzel

Join the Wiener Lovers’ Club, and get a “free food” each year on your birthday, plus a free chili dog for joining.

76. Zaxby’s

Sign up for the Zax Club and get a free “birthday surprise” , plus a free signature sandwich for signing up.


77. Alamo Drafthouse Cinema

Join Alamo Drafthouse Cinema’s Victory program and get a free movie ticket on your birthday every year. If you visit Alamo Drafthouse Cinema more than 50 times per year, you’ll get two free tickets for your birthday.

78. AMC Theatres

Become an AMC Stubs Insider to get a free large popcorn during your birthday month. If you’re a Premiere or A-List member, you’ll also get a free large fountain drink.

People wait outside Best Buy on Black Friday.
Sharon Steinmann/The Penny Hoarder

79. Best Buy

My Best Buy members get a “birthday gift.”

80. Harkins Theatres

Sign up for My Harkins Rewards and receive a $5 birthday coupon to use at the concessions.

81. Hard Rock

Sign up for Hard Rock Rewards to get an “annual birthday offer” from the cafe and shops.

82. Redbox

Sign up for Redbox Perks and receive a free birthday rental (it must be used within 60 days). If you have made 50 purchases or rentals, you’ll get two free birthday rentals.You’ll also get a free one-night rental for signing up (that offer is valid for two weeks).

Clothes & Shoes

83. Anthropologie

As a member of the Anthro Loyalty program, you will get a “special treat to celebrate your birthday.”

84. Banana Republic

When you sign up to receive Banana Republic’s emails, you can opt to also get a “birthday gift.”

85. Columbia

Members of the Greater Rewards program get a “birthday gift” in addition to a welcome gift from the sportswear and outdoor gear retailer.

Penny Hoarder senior writer Robin Hartill knows how to score the freebies on her birthday. Check out her haul.

86. Designer Shoe Warehouse (DSW)

Join the free DSW VIP Club to get a $5 birthday reward. You’ll also get $5 on your birthday if you spend $200 annually as a VIP Gold member, and you’ll get $10 if you spend $500 annually as a VIP Elite member.

87. Famous Footwear

Famously You Rewards members get a $5 birthday cash reward. You’ll also earn double points on all of your purchases during your birthday month.

88. JCPenney

Receive a birthday gift when you sign up for JCPenney Rewards. If you are not a JCPenney credit card member, you must have earned points within the last 12 months. If you are a credit card member, you must have made a purchase with your JCPenney Credit Card within the past 12 months.

The exterior of a Kohls store.
Getty Images

89. Kohl’s

Members of the Kohl’s Rewards program get a “special birthday gift.”

90. Old Navy

When you join Navyist Rewards, you’re eligible for one free “birthday surprise.”

91. Torrid

Sign up for Torrid Rewards and get a coupon for $10 off during your birthday month.

92. Uniqlo

Download the Uniqlo app to get a birthday coupon during your birthday month.

Beauty & Jewelry

93. Aveda

You need to pay $10 to join Aveda’s loyalty rewards program, but you’ll receive a birthday gift valued at $23, as well as double points for your next Aveda purchase.

94. bareMinerals

Sign up for the Friends and Benefits loyalty program to get “birthday gifts.”

95. Kendra Scott

Kendra Scott offers a 50% birthday discount on one fashion jewelry or color bar item. It also offers a 25% discount on fine jewelry, sterling silver jewelry or gold vermeil jewelry. You can also get 25% off a home goods item. Find out more information here.

96. Pandora

Members of the Pandora Club get a 15% discount during their birthday month. This offer can only be used one time and is valid on regular-priced jewelry only.

97. Sephora

Beauty Insiders are eligible to choose a free makeup or skin care gift for their birthday.

98. Ulta Beauty

As an Ultamate Rewards member, you’ll get a free gift. If you’ve spent enough money to be a Platinum ($500) or Diamond ($1,200) member, you get an additional bonus gift.

During your birthday month, you’ll earn double points on all of your purchases.


99. Ace Hardware

Ace Rewards members get $5 off for their birthday at participating locations. If you’ve spent $750 at Ace Hardware over a 12-month period, your birthday rewards get bumped up to $10 off, regardless of location.

100. Container Store

Join the POP! (Perfectly Organized Perks) program to get a birthday gift.

The exterior of a CVS is photographed in Florida.
Tina Russell/The Penny Hoarder

101. CVS Pharmacy

As a member of the ExtraCare program, you’ll get a free, $3 Extrabucks reward on your birthday, as well as 2% back every time you shop.

102. Swagbucks

As a birthday reward, “you’ll receive a Swag Up for a 55 SB credit when you redeem your next gift card.”

103. World Market

Members of World Market Rewards get a “surprise offer” on their birthday, plus a 15% coupon for signing up.

The Penny Hoarder Staff


Dear Penny: Do I Get My Ex’s Lottery Money if We’re Still Legally Married?

Dear Penny,
The other 39 states require that winners’ names become part of the public record, at least in theory. What that means is that even if the state doesn’t display the names of all winners on its lottery website, you should be able to ask the state’s lottery for the names of winners.
Dear Separated,
Robin Hartill is a certified financial planner and a senior writer at The Penny Hoarder. Send your tricky money questions to [email protected].
He was on Social Security Disability, which meant the children received money from Social Security. He had to pay child support, which he was behind on for several years. Child support enforcement was very new at that time in my state, so trying to get them to go after him became a nightmare.
But in practice, these records are often ridiculously difficult for the public to obtain. A team of six journalists from the Columbia Journalism Review made 100 public records requests to state lotteries and found that many ignored or declined the requests, redacted information, or claimed the request would result in exorbitant fees. Also, winners can often avoid making their names public by setting up a trust or an anonymous LLC.
Related Posts
Obviously, you can expect a nasty fight if you proceed. But I think it’s worth pursuing if this money exists and your attorney thinks you have a reasonable shot at getting part of it. You deserve to be made financially whole after all these years.
My sons want nothing to do with him and don’t want me to pursue this. I’m torn on whether to proceed or not. 

Ready to stop worrying about money?
It would certainly make for poetic justice if your husband had to split his lottery winnings with you. Unfortunately, though, you shouldn’t assume that you’ll be entitled to your husband’s money — that is, if it actually exists.
As I mentioned we are still married legally, so I know I am entitled to a portion of that money. How would I go about finding out how much he won and if he claimed it himself or had someone else do it?
I left my husband in 1990. We were in a bitter custody battle for two years before I left. I was awarded sole custody. He had visitation rights, which he never used. Long story short, he never saw our children from the time I left him.

-Separated for 30 Years
I should also mention he cut off the family’s health insurance that he was ordered to pay until the youngest child turned 21, which caused me financial strain. At the time, I was paying 0 a month for a family plan in 2004. Child support also ended at that time. He was supposed to pay for insurance for three more years.
Get the Penny Hoarder Daily
You can check your state’s lottery website to see if your estranged husband is listed among the winners. Even if he didn’t accept a giant check at a news conference, his name may be listed in accordance with your state’s open records laws.
Privacy Policy
But it’s also getting easier to keep your name private when you win the jackpot. Eleven states — Arizona, Delaware, Georgia, Kansas, Maryland, New Jersey, North Dakota, Ohio, South Carolina, Texas and Virginia — now allow lottery winners to stay anonymous.

My attorney at the time had the support order changed so it came directly from his SSD check. For me, it was the end of a nightmare of endless court battles. We never got divorced. There was no reason other than I was mentally drained with him trying to financially ruin me.



The laws for assets acquired after a couple has separated vary by state. Many states treat property one spouse acquires after a permanent separation as belonging solely to them. Talk to an attorney in your state. Your attorney may be able to help you figure out whether your husband actually won. If he did win, your attorney can tell you whether you have a legitimate claim.

The Best Places to Live in Arizona in 2022

It may be a desert, but between the mountains and the cacti, living in Arizona is pretty special. There are plenty of reasons to move to the Grand Canyon State, and even more opportunities to find the perfect city to call home. Whether you’re looking into an active lifestyle of hiking, biking, mountain climbing and even white water rafting, or a more metropolitan experience, the best places to live in Arizona all have something to offer you.

Chandler, Arizona

Chandler, Arizona

  • Population: 261,165
  • 1-BR median rent: $1,641
  • 2-BR median rent: $2,136
  • Median home price: $470,000
  • Median household income: $82,925
  • Walk Score: 38

Combining a vibrant downtown with family-friendly neighborhoods, it’s no wonder the city of Chandler sits on so many lists as one of the best places to live in Arizona. Spend the week commuting to work and sending kids off to school, but when the weekend comes, venture into the city center. Here you’ll find plenty of activity, from pub crawls to music festivals.

For something truly special, visit Desert Breeze Park and take a ride on a vintage train. If you’re looking for something to do on a weekly basis, schedule in time to shop at the Downtown Farmer’s Market or swing into Yoga in the Park. Both activities happen weekly on Saturdays.

Gilbert, Arizona

Gilbert, Arizona

  • Population: 254,114
  • 1-BR median rent: $1,800
  • 2-BR median rent: $2,156
  • Median home price: $495,000
  • Median household income: $96,857
  • Walk Score: 32

A picture-perfect location for small-town living, Gilbert offers apartments that are close to all the amenities you could possibly need without feeling squished into a big, busy city. Peppered with shops, the downtown area has great places to eat, grab a coffee or absorb some culture. You’ll find the Gilbert Historical Museum and the Hale Centre Theatre right in the thick of things, as well.

For nature-lovers, there’s amazing bird watching at Riparian Preserve at the Water Ranch. Manmade lakes maintain a thriving ecosystem of Arizona’s natural surroundings. To combine the outdoors with some serious fun, Freestone Park includes a recreation center, mini amusement park, skate park and a mini train ride. There’s also the usual playground, sports fields and picnic spaces.

Glendale, Arizona

Glendale, Arizona

  • Population: 252,381
  • 1-BR median rent: $1,366
  • 2-BR median rent: $1,751
  • Median home price: $385,275
  • Median household income: $55,020
  • Walk Score: 45

Known for its modern vibe and extensive entertainment options, Glendale is a great choice to call home.

For sports fans, living in Glendale is a top-notch choice. Here, you’ll find the Arizona Cardinals during baseball season and the Phoenix Coyotes take to the ice for hockey. Even college sports are close by in State Farm Stadium. It’s home to not only the Cardinals but also the Fiesta Bowl.

The city also serves as a major draw for military personnel thanks to Luke Air Force Base. This base is the largest fighter pilot training spot in the world.

Mesa, Arizona

Mesa, Arizona

  • Population: 518,012
  • 1-BR median rent: $1,312
  • 2-BR median rent: $1,564
  • Median home price: $405,000
  • Median household income: $58,181
  • Walk Score: 42

While we’re talking sports, another ideal way to get that baseball fix is to call Mesa home. This is where Spring Training happens. Both the Oakland A’s and Chicago Cubs come here to prepare for their season each year.

During the off-season, Mesa offers plenty to do, all without making it feel like you’re living in a huge city. It’s actually just the right size to make it a safe, bike-friendly city. You’ll also find a few perfect outdoor spots with recreational options that range from nature walks to horseback riding, kayaking and rafting. Even better, you’ll never struggle for a solid picnic spot.

Peoria, Arizona

Peoria, Arizona

  • Population: 175,961
  • 1-BR median rent: $1,372
  • 2-BR median rent: $1,617
  • Median home price: $456,700
  • Median household income: $75,323
  • Walk Score: 34

Having a home in Peoria offers up a good mix of the big city and the quiet suburbs. As with most of the best places to live in Arizona, it has an extensive list of outdoor activities and some beautiful scenery.

Among all this natural beauty, you can also get in a little baseball here, too. The city hosts the San Diego Padres and Seattle Mariners for Spring Training.

However, the central feature of Peoria is Lake Pleasant Regional Park. This pristine lake draws visitors who want to boat and fish, as well as hike and camp. You’ll find water skiers and wakeboarders out enjoying themselves, too.

Phoenix, Arizona

Phoenix, Arizona

  • Population: 1,680,992
  • 1-BR median rent: $1,187
  • 2-BR median rent: $1,517
  • Median home price: $393,500
  • Median household income: $57,459
  • Walk Score: 54

No list of the best places to live in Arizona could be complete without talking about living in Phoenix. It’s not just the state capital, but a bustling hub of activity. Some of the best neighborhoods in Phoenix encompass the trifecta of perfection — beautiful neighborhoods, fun places to go out and excellent shopping.

Given its diverse population, anyone can find their ideal home in this city. Nightlife and the college scene are both booming for the younger crowd, but the city holds plenty of family-friendly amenities, as well. It’s also a popular destination for retirees.

Prescott Valley, Arizona

Prescott Valley, Arizona

  • Population: 46,515
  • 1-BR median rent: $2,290
  • 2-BR median rent: $2,357
  • Median home price: $593,000
  • Median household income: $51,909
  • Walk Score: 22

With its compact city center, Prescott makes it easy to enjoy live music, shop a little and sit down in the grass for a picnic without wandering far. Courthouse Plaza is really where it’s at, but it’s not all there is to do when you live in Prescott.

You’ll also find two lakes, which enable residents to enjoy a variety of activities. Goldwater Lake creates the perfect outdoor atmosphere. The surrounding park has a playground, volleyball courts and more. Lynx Lake is big enough for boats but is also a great place to camp and fish.

Scottsdale, Arizona

Scottsdale, Arizona

  • Population: 258,069
  • 1-BR median rent: $2,064
  • 2-BR median rent: $3,000
  • Median home price: $695,000
  • Median household income: $88,213
  • Walk Score: 48

Rated as one of the best cities to retire to in the U.S., living in Scottsdale isn’t just for people who no longer have to work. It is, however, a hub of luxury for Arizona residents, with plenty of high-end hotels, golf courses and more.

Scottsdale has a vibe all its own, being a little wild west, thanks to Old Town, and a little forward-thinking, with modern accents and a focus on entrepreneurs.

If your perfect Arizona town has something old, something new and plenty of upscale fun, Scottsdale is right for you.

Surprise, Arizona

Surprise, Arizona

  • Population: 141,664
  • 1-BR median rent: $1,490
  • 2-BR median rent: $1,787
  • Median home price: $410,00
  • Median household income: $69,076
  • Walk Score: 22

With humble beginnings as a single square mile of land, the city of Surprise has sure grown up. Today, it houses one of the best public art collections in the state. Featuring creations heavily influenced by the local landscape and culture, it’s not all small town here. You’re also only 45 minutes from downtown Phoenix.

Encased by natural beauty, those living in Surprise can see the White Tank Mountains to the west and the Sonoran Desert to the north. Hiking, fishing and camping are all less than 20 minutes away.

In the spring, the population blows up as Surprise welcomes the Kansas City Royals and Texas Rangers for Spring Training.

Tempe, Arizona

Tempe, Arizona

  • Population: 195,805
  • 1-BR median rent: $1,494
  • 2-BR median rent: $1,715
  • Median home price: $425,000
  • Median household income: $57,994
  • Walk Score: 62

If you’re looking to live in Tempe, home of Arizona State University, you’ll find many amenities aimed at college students and recent graduates who may decide to stay close.

Sitting along the Salt River, Tempe offers plenty of waterfront activities. It’s also considered a suburb of Phoenix, so the big city isn’t far.

For those who really want to settle down, the city is home to a lot of tech companies and professional opportunities.

Tucson, Arizona

Tucson, Arizona

  • Population: 548,073
  • 1-BR median rent: $932
  • 2-BR median rent: $2,159
  • Median home price: $308,000
  • Median household income: $43,425
  • Walk Score: 45

The University of Arizona looms large for anyone searching for an apartment in Tucson, but there’s more to this city than the Wildcats.

Tucson has the unique distinction of seasons but they’re not what you might think. There’s Snowbird Season, when Tucson neighborhoods see a higher influx of visitors. Then, there’s Monsoon Season, where crazy thunderstorms, high winds and dust storms can quickly, though temporarily, transform the landscape.

No matter the time of year, though, the city offers unique districts throughout downtown for art, shopping, businesses and entertainment. You’ll also find easy access to Tucson’s rich history, and plenty of options to get outside and hang out.

Find an apartment for rent in Arizona

With beautiful weather, ample sunshine and plenty of choices that fall under the best places to live in Arizona, this may be your next home state. If so, it’s time to start looking for apartments for rent in Arizona.

Which city will you start with?

The rent information included in this summary is based on a median calculation of multifamily rental property inventory on Apartment Guide and as of October 2021.
Median home prices are from Redfin as of October 2021.
Population and median household income are from the U.S. Census Bureau.
The information in this article is for illustrative purposes only. This data herein does not constitute a pricing guarantee or financial advice related to the rental market.




Living and Working in Different States Can Be a Tax Headache

Lately, we’ve seen a significant increase in the number of people changing jobs compared to past years. Some media outlets have named it the “Great Resignation.” In many cases, people are crossing state lines and getting new jobs a different state than where they live. But doing this can also bring up tax issues that can be quite complicated. For instance, if I live in one state and work in another, which state income tax return should I file? Do I need to pay taxes for two states? Who withholds what? Let’s try to answer these questions.

Residency Question

The question of where you’re deemed to be a resident is an important one in determining which state will tax your income or how your employer will withhold taxes from your paycheck. For residents of a state, all income from sources inside and outside that state can be taxed by the state. When it comes to nonresidents, however, states have less power to tax. A state can only tax a nonresident on income generated within its borders, such as wages from a job in the state. But that also means you’ll typically have state taxes withheld from your pay by the state where you work.

So, let’s discuss what makes someone a resident of a state. You’re generally deemed to be a resident of the state in which your primary home is located, assuming you’ve spent more than half of the year in that state.

But there are some exceptions to this general rule. For example, if someone has two houses in two different states, those states can look at other things to determine your state of residence, including where you vote, where you have a driver’s license, and where your personal and professional links are found.

Additionally, some states also have a “183-day rule” that basically says if you’re in the state for more than 183 days, you could be deemed a “statutory resident.” This would make you liable for taxes as a resident in that state.

Convenience of the Employer Test

A handful of states apply a “convenience of the employer” test that can result in your wages being taxed by the state where your employer is located instead of the state where you live, even if you never set foot in the state where the employer is based. This affects people who telecommute for companies that are in a different state, which is happening more during the pandemic.

Under the “convenience of the employer” test, if an employer requires the employee to work in another state (employer’s convenience), then taxes and withholding are based on the location where the work is performed. If, however, the employee chooses to work in another location (employee’s convenience), then taxes and withholding are based on where the employer is located.

State Tax Returns

Let’s move on to whether you’ll need to file a state tax return where you reside and/or work. Generally, if you’re a resident of the state in which you work, you’ll just file one state tax return at the end of the year.

But what happens if you aren’t a resident of the state in which you work? This often means filing multiple state tax returns and possibly dealing with double taxation issues (which we will discuss below). The tax return for the state where you work will be a nonresident return. In this return, you list only the income earned and taxes paid in that state. The other return will be a resident return for the state where you reside.

One exception to this rule is when you live or work in a state where there isn’t a state income tax. So, if you live or work in Alaska, Florida, Nevada, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Washington, or Wyoming you won’t need to file a state income tax return for that state. (Note that I’m not including New Hampshire in the list even though it doesn’t have a state income tax because it still requires a state return if you have dividends or interest income during the year.)

Reciprocity Agreements

Another exception to the rules requiring people to file a tax return for the state where they work involves what is called a reciprocity agreement. These agreements, which are made between states, allow residents to work out-of-state yet only file a state tax return for the state in which they reside. Moreover, under a reciprocity agreement, you’ll only be subject to income tax withholding for the state in which you reside.

Keep in mind that the protections of a reciprocity agreement aren’t automatic. In order to properly take advantage of the agreement, you must tell your employer to withhold taxes based on your state of residence rather than the state where you work. If you don’t do this, you’ll continue to be taxed by both states and forced to fill out two state tax returns.

Be careful if you are moving while involved in a reciprocity agreement. If you are permanently moving to a state in which there is no reciprocity agreement with the state where you work, you will lose all benefits of the agreement. In this situation, you would need to ask your employer to withhold income tax in the state where you work and the state where you reside.

Currently, 16 states and the District of Columbia have state tax reciprocity agreements. Please check with the state tax agency where you live to find out if you’re in one of them.

Double Taxation

If you’re required to file multiple state tax returns because you live in one state and work in another, does that mean you’ll pay taxes two separate times on the same income? No.

After you fill out a state tax return for the state where you work, you’ll file a second tax return for the state where you reside. On this return, you’ll report how much your tax liability was on the first state tax return. All states allow their residents to claim a tax credit based on the taxes paid to other states. Note, however, that there isn’t any guarantee that the state tax credit will always equal what you paid in taxes to the state where you work.

For those who pay estimated taxes, you’ll need to make estimated tax payments to each state based on your expect income, deductions, and credits. Therefore, it’s important to talk to a tax professional when filing out estimate tax forms.

Moving to Another State

What if you live and work in one state for part of the year, and then pack your bags and move to another state to take another job during the same tax year? In this situation, you’re technically a resident of two states during the year. This means that you’ll need to file two separate state tax returns for the year.

Depending on the state, you may be able to pay taxes as a part-year residence. Most states allow for a person to be a part-time resident for tax purposes if they move into the state during the year with the intent of becoming a resident or leave the state with the intent to reside elsewhere. By doing this, you can divide your income between the two states and not pay tax on the same income two separate times.

Again, this will heavily depend on whether the state at issue has a part-year residence status. Check with the state’s tax agency to learn these rules.

What About My Spouse?

What if your spouse has a job in a different state? Assuming both states at issue have a state income tax and there’s a reciprocity agreement between them, both you and your spouse will need to file a state tax return for the state where you reside. If your spouse works in another state that doesn’t have a reciprocity agreement with the state where you live, he or she will need to file a separate return as a nonresident in the state where he or she is employed.